The epic highs and lows of Riverdale: A retrospective

8 mins read

Do you remember when Riverdale started airing in 2017? It was everywhere. Everyone was talking about it, online and IRL.

I remember a school friend showed me an episode during our lunchbreak one day – and just like that, I was hooked. Riverdale was a car crash, and I couldn’t look away.

I turned 15 during the airing of the first season. Now I’m 21 and the final episode aired last week.

This show has been a silly little constant in my life for the past six years. I’ve spent many an hour laughing at it with my sister and have fond memories of streaming episodes via video call with my partner during the pandemic.

Now seven series and 137 episodes (yes, you read that right) later, it’s all come to an end. I can’t help feeling a bit nostalgic (and questioning my life choices).

Whilst I love Riverdale in all its hideous glory, I would like to preface this by saying it is far from unproblematic. From the treatment of the show’s actors of colour to its representation of queer characters, it’s not perfect – pretty much the opposite.

Early Riverdale

The premise for season one was relatively simple. Based on the Archie Comics, a teenage boy is murdered in small town America and his classmates try to find out whodunnit.

Did you know he’s weird? Image credit: Netflix

It gave us some iconic moments, like Jughead’s unforgettable “I’m a weirdo” speech and introduces us to the infamous Dark Betty. Although, on the whole it was pretty tame and generally well received by the public and critics alike.

So how did one of the most exciting and popular shows of the late 2010s lose millions of viewers and turn into one big meme?

Whilst the cracks were apparent right from the get-go – season one involved that weird queerbait kiss between Betty and Veronica and Jughead’s asexuality from the comics was seemingly forgotten – so was that silly Riverdale magic.

It was tropey and fun, pure escapism. Even though it was full of murderers and gangs, it was still relatable for its teenage demographic. The characters struggle with school, their parents, their love lives.

Fast-forward to season seven, and… they’re all still the same age? But it’s the fifties? Huh?

Season seven

This isn’t a recap article, so I’ll give you the short version. In season six, everyone’s grown up (finally, we don’t have to pretend KJ Apa is 16 anymore) and the core characters find themselves back in Riverdale. Wackiness ensues – and I mean real wackiness.

Superheroes, alternate timelines and the sheer power of lesbianism mean that in the finale, everyone is transported back to the 1950s and they’re 16 again with no memories of their previous lives. There we have the set-up for season seven.

Image Credit: Radio Times

Whilst some storylines felt repetitive and the fact that some of the actors are in their THIRTIES and STILL playing teenagers is beyond a joke now, the main takeaway I got from this season is that it was fun. It was simply entertaining in way that a lot of TV just isn’t anymore.

It’s clear that the writers aren’t scared to f*ck around anymore – but were they ever? They poke fun at some of the most memorable storylines from earlier seasons. Archie even references the iconic “epic highs and lows of high school football” line.

Image credit: Buzzfeed

Then we come to the last ever episode: Goodbye, Riverdale. The show may be based on the Archie Comics, but this is Betty’s show at the end of the day.

Lili Reinhart always serves in my opinion. She gives a perfect mix of camp but serious. Having the final episode focus on her was a perfect way to end the story.

I also believe our bisexual queen just set out to kiss as many of her co-stars as possible in this last hurrah. For that I can only applaud her. Archie, Jughead, Kevin, Veronica, Toni – who didn’t she smooch?

Which leads on to: this season was extra gay, much to my delight. Kevin has a kind and loving relationship with new character Clay, Cheryl and Toni get their happily ever after and finally… we need to talk about the quad.

The quad

If you haven’t seen the finale – I would say ‘what are you doing with your life?’ but the answer is probably much more sense than me – you’ve probably read about this on Twitter.

In the last episode, it’s revealed that Betty, Veronica, Jughead and Archie were in a polyamorous quad relationship during their last year of 1950s high school.

Quad is the Latin word for four so it’s pretty self-explanatory – a relationship between four people. Betty explains that after getting their memories of their past lives back (we don’t have time to unpack all of that), the core four remembered their old relationships with one another and beg the question: why should they have to chose?

Image credit: Netflix

This was honestly a refreshing take on the tired love triangle (or more accurately in this case, square). Again, it was just fun and explored some lesser-developed relationships like Jughead and Veronica.

Mostly though I was annoyed that this relationship style wasn’t introduced earlier. We didn’t get to see enough of it. It could’ve made for some interesting plotlines and discussions around non-monogamy if it wasn’t shoved in at the last minute.

And fine, I’ll bite: where was the Jarchie kiss? All four are seen kissing each other apart from the two guys. Yes, I know realistically there are plenty of poly relationships where the men are not involved romantically or sexually but come on – not even a little peck Cole?

In conclusion…

All in all, I am sad to see this show leave our screens. It’s been a wild ride. From gargoyle kings to organ-harvesting cults and serial killer genes to destructive comets, Riverdale went there.

If there’s one thing I could always predict in my life, it was that Riverdale would be unpredictable.

Feature Image Credit: The CW

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Film, media and journalism student. I like writing about my inability to eat gluten.

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